Michigan among lowest COVID-19 case rates, but for how long?

While the U.S. is seeing increasing COVID-19 case rates as a nation, Michigan has so far dodged the brunt of it.

Over the last two weeks, Michigan ranks 45th in new daily infections per 100,000 people, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means it has the sixth-lowest case rate, down from 15th a week ago.

At 21.5 cases per 100,000 per week, the state trails only South Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Michigan has also reported the seventh-smallest percentage increase in new cases over the last 14 days (77% increase). Nationally, the country has seen nearly a 200% increase over the last two weeks.

Hospitalizations are also down, as Michigan ranks 43rd in hospitalizations per capita. The state is one of six that has reported a decline in COVID-19 patients over the last 14 days.

“So far, keeping our fingers crossed, our numbers, we seem to be faring better than what the rest of the states are seeing,” said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Henry Ford Health System.

“Although, if you start tracking the numbers over the past few days, we are starting to see an early uptick and we definitely hope that this is not the sign that you are starting to see a spread of the delta variant into some of our communities where the vaccination rate is lower.”

Related: Delta variant slowly increasing in Michigan as doctors stress importance of vaccine

Dr. Munkarah chalked Michigan’s recent low case rates up to the state’s vaccination effort. He cited studies that indicate the available vaccines work against all known strains, including the delta variant, and that even a single dose provides a boost to someone who has some level of natural immunity from a prior infection.

“These are important things for us to learn from,” he said. “This is emerging data that is important for us to say, even if somebody has had an infection, it’s important to get vaccinated to boost the immunity, and despite the concerns about the delta variant, the vaccines do work.”

Vaccinations could be helping protect Michiganders, but the 10th most populous state ranks just 25th in vaccinations per capita with 96,974 doses administered per 100,00 residents, according to CDC data.

Michigan has gotten a first-dose shot to 57.5% of residents 12 and up, and has fully vaccinated 53.5% of that population. Looking at the 16 and older population, 62.9% have gotten a first shot, according to state health department data.

Another potential factor is that Michigan already had a significant surge in the spring, which meant more people developing antibodies naturally.

It wasn’t long ago that the 10th most-populous state sat atop COVID-19 case, death and hospitalization lists as the spring surge hit the state especially hard. Michigan peaked at 7,006 reported cases per day in mid-April, before hitting pandemic lows by late June.

Between July 13 and July 19, Michigan had 80 of its 83 counties at low or moderate transmission levels, meaning positive test rates were below 7.9% and cases were less than 50 per million people.

Two counties -- Branch and Iron -- have indicated substantial transmission levels, meaning 8-9.9% positivity rates and/or 50-99 cases per million), while only Gogebic County has reported a high level of transmission (10% positivity and/or more than 100 cases per million).

Regardless of where Michigan is now, health officials are urging unvaccinated individuals to research and consider getting a shot before another rise in cases does hit the state. Another surge in cases, combined with the upcoming influenza season, could be “a disaster,” Munkarah said.

Vaccines are widely available in Michigan and health officials standby their safety and effectiveness at preventing serious illness from coronavirus. To find a vaccine near you, visit Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccine website.

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Michigan reports a four-day total of 1,028 new coronavirus cases for July 17-20